Sent by P Blackburn
Based in Angmering
Hello, thank you for taking the time to visit my page.
I am Sally-Jo Asser, as your independent Travel Counsellor I will arrange all the necessary travel plans for you and your travelling companions, whether you are travelling as one, or a couple, group of friends, family and even extended family.
I have 17 years experience working in the travel industry creating tailor-made itineraries for individuals and small groups for their annual summer beach or winter ski holidays to much larger groups on special interest tours such as nature watching, archaeological, cultural, charity challenges. This experience has taught me that people travel for many different reasons, not just the annual family getaway. Every reason for travel needs to be understood in order to create your perfect itinerary.
Wherever it is you wish to travel be it for a beach, cruise, city break, ski, scuba diving, sailing, adventure, safari, cultural, wedding, honeymoon, flights and UK breaks, I have a breadth of experience at my finger tips and will be able to create for you the holiday you are looking for.
I am fortunate to have travelled to many places incorporating family package holidays, independent travel, visiting friends and family, working overseas, skiing, scuba diving and sailing. My travels have taken me to Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, Asia, Middle East, Caribbean but there are still so many more places to visit.
What matters to me is that I give you the best personal service, so that you will genuinely be happy to recommend me on to your friends and family. Be careful not to keep my business a secret though!
The beauty of being a Travel Counsellor is having the freedom and choice to spend my time really getting to know you and what you want from your travel experiences, to be able to share my experiences with you.
I am here to help you by email, phone or face to face. For my clients there’s no call centre queue, no internet trawling, no waiting in line on the high street, just me, working with you to achieve your travel plans, customer service the traditional way, person to person.
Don’t delay, please do call (or email) me today, I really look forward to planning your holiday with you soon.
We had so much fun tobogganing of an evening from our chalet. Apologies the lighting is not that great but I love this video, gets me chuckling everytime.
The descent into Lud's Church, an atmospheric, moss-covered chasm that hides plenty of secrets
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
01 November 2021
Like a lot of people, I’ve been to London many times for work and leisure. There are parts of this itinerary I’ve visited many times and yet still this globally iconic city never ceases to entertain me. My friend and I booked 2nights, end of October at Bermonds Locke aparthotel, just a 12min walk south of Tower Bridge. Bermondsey Street and The Shard to the west, Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames to the east. This is SE1, artisan deli’s, coffee houses and restaurants are scattered around every cobbled street corner. The vibe is laid back, urban oasis, cultural, creative, one of the most inspiring parts of London. I love this borough and it's a perfect base for a weekend or longer stays. Checked in, we headed out and grabbed a baguette from a local deli to eat on the go. Ambling our way through the back streets toward Waterloo (a leisurely 45min walk), discovering little gems along the way, gated community gardens, hidden street markets, galleries…. even stumbled across The Ministry of Sound ….. dancing shoes to the ready!! At Waterloo we met with our Veluba Tour Guide, Hannah. Veluba are pedal-powered, electrically assisted tricycle cabs, as such they have zero emission…. sits well with me! On our hour long ‘Landmark London’ tour we learnt some facts about Big Ben, Whitehall, No.10 Downing St. Stopping in Trafalgar Square for 5mins walkabout, we popped into St Martin in the Fields Church finding a quintet practising Vivaldi….one of this trips memory gems for me. Getting back to our feet we walked through Somerset House (beautiful place to ice skate during the winter). Continuing along The Strand, passing The Old Bank of England, Royal Courts of Justice, St Pauls Cathedral, Pudding Lane, Tower of London, Tower Bridge along the way glimpsing narrow cobbled alleys leading to ancient monuments and churches nestled between modern buildings….. gentle reminders of the enormous wealth of history London offers beyond the conventional sightseeing. Next morning we strolled east taking in Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames. In the 1870’s this was the largest warehouse complex on the Thames. Depicted in movies as gloomy working docks, this is now a chic redevelopment of luxury apartments and restaurants. The distinctive iron bridges in Shad Thames were once used for moving goods from warehouse to warehouse and have been retained as part of the redevelopment. Heading back west, we followed the river front as promenade & side streets allow, taking in City Hall, HMS Belfast, Hays Galleria to Borough Market, an extensive ‘foodies’ feast nestled under the railway arches…. make sure you arrive hungry!!! We visited The Sky Garden, a foliage-filled atrium, London’s highest public garden. The viewing gallery on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie building offers 360degree views over London. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, this green oasis provides fantastic views of the famous rooftops of London, with an open-air terrace providing views across the Thames. Free to go up but need to pre-book. Treat yourself to a cocktail, £13+. We continued on, taking in The Golden Hinde, Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, skatepark under South Bank Centre, stopping for a mulled wine under the bridge arches, eventually passing The London Eye on to Waterloo Bridge. With time to kill before dinner we continued to The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Mall, Admiralty Arch and down Whitehall, passing Horse Guards Parade, Downing St, The Cenotaph. Our last day….. Mamma Mia The Party at O2…. I think that one deserves it’s own blog, so watch this space. You’re never far from food when in London. Wherever possible I try to find somewhere a little querky or off the beaten track to eat. We found a great street food market round the back of South Bank Centre, one of the best Samosa I’ve ever had. I love to eat at Wahaca South Bank, I know it’s a chain but I really love the setting and vibe of the place. Built from converted shipping containers, funky and vibrantly painted, be sure to get a window seat upstairs for the best view, or outside on the terrace if weathers allows. Meal for two with cocktails £50. I can organise many types of experiential breaks in London for you, whether your interest is arts, history, people, classic sightseeing, photography, shopping, walking or food. My friends goal was to see some classic sights and just soak up the ambience of our great Capital…… I think we nailed it :-))
16 September 2021
I was asked by some great friends, ‘fancy a walking holiday in the Peak District?’. The last time I was in this area and indeed hiking was some 30 years ago as a late teen and I remembered it being a challenging hike then. Would I be able to hack it a 50??? Would I be able to keep up with the group mostly in their 30’s & 40’s….. only way to find out is to do it… so ‘YES’ came splurting out of my mouth! We booked 3 nights in August. There are loads of accommodation options in the area, we opted some of us to stay at the Premier Inn, clean, modern, welcoming, in a good location on the outskirts of Buxton but easily accessible for an evening walk into town for drinks & supper. A couple of us stayed at The Palace Hotel Buxton, a period building of c1868, set in five acres of stunning landscaped gardens, centrally located and next to the train station, a grand looking hotel. You’d need to have a conversation with me to hear which hotel I’d prefer to stay in!! Our first hike was Mam Tor & Hope an 8-miler which is one of the most famous walks in the Peak District, well and truly deserves a place on your Peak District bucket list! Starting in the valley at Castleton, ascending the 517metre peak of Mam Tor (Mother’s Hill.. and it was a mother of a hill!), along the ridges and descending into Hope for a refreshing pub stop…. of course…. continuing on through the lowlands back to Castleton. Castleton is a great place to stay if you want to explore the surrounding countryside and there are many circular walks for you to try. Another place which can be very useful as a base for your Mam Tor exploration is Edale, from here Mam Tor is a beautiful (albeit steep) walk and it’s also the official start of the Pennine Way! Our second walk, The Roaches and Lud’s Church, although shorter (7miles) was more challenging underfoot. The Roaches is an iconic Peak District destination, a rocky ridge that rises steeply to 505m, towering over the Tittesworth Reservoir. Lud’s Church is one of the highlights of this walk, and my favourite of the weekend – an atmospheric, moss-covered chasm that hides plenty of secrets… too much history to write in this blog. The walls of the rock on either side stretch 18m up in the air, and are coated in sweet-smelling, vivid green moss - check out Lud's Church in My Videos. Lud’s Church offers the perfect contrast to the rocky, open ridge of the Roaches, and for a brief moment on your walk, will transport you to another world. Buxton has many great places to eat and drink in the evening. I particularly enjoyed The Royal Oak a charming country pub in Hurdlow, 53Degrees@ Buxton Brewery Tap House with good food, service, atmosphere and The Old Sun Inn, a 17th century converted coaching inn with a great selection of gins. Our itinerary didn’t allow time for further excursions on this trip but there is so much on offer in the area that you could easily fill a week long holiday. There are many more walks, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Mines, Matlock, Bakewell, Leek the list goes on. All in I spent £450 including, petrol (from West Sussex), accommodation, food & drink aplenty…. even a bit of clothes shopping!!! If this or another holiday like this is of interest to you then please get in touch to discuss. In the meantime, dust off your hiking boots and get practising.
15 February 2021
There are many ways in which we can see the world be it a package or tailormade holiday, stays in luxury hotels or homestays in community projects, self-drive touring or organised group tour. There are so many different ways to see the highlights and experience a singular destination. So when asked “Can you give me a quote for (insert destination)?”, there is so much more I need to know about you and what you want to gain from your trip before I can even begin to create the right itinerary for you. Like many people I enjoy all kinds of travel from bucket & spade family package holiday to city or beach breaks with my friends. But there’s one type of travel that I’m really passionate about, that really gets my travel spirit soaring…… Adventure Travel. What is Adventure Travel? My love for adventure travel began at a very early age. As the youngest of four, every summer until I was 10years old, we took off for most of the summer holidays to stay with my aunt & uncle on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. It was a rich experience; helicopter flights, watching gig races, pleasure boats rides to other islands, beach picnics, rock climbing, lancing by torchlight, shrimping, mackerel fishing, ice creams, crab sandwiches, cornish pasties that ooze over the side of the plate, sitting on huge cannons and walking the walled Garrison that once protected the islands from the Spanish Armada in the 1500’s…. So many experiences, rich history, exhilarating excitement and adventure, I was immensely privileged to have lived these Enid Blyton summers. To me, Adventure travel conjures up ideals of merging with the locals, journeying off the beaten track, experiencing a little of the journeys of our great explorers, eating where the locals eat, seeing sights at times not flooded with mainstream tourists, being active, staying in community villages, experiencing local customs and everyday life. Exploring on foot and taking time to just sit and be part of the local vibe. Adventure travel doesn’t have to be some epic, once in a lifetime, bucket list destination….. although that is preferable to me. But you’ll find adventure travel on a surfing weekend in Cornwall, or walking the coastline once dominated by smugglers. Tread in the footsteps of Romans, exploring the ruins along Hadrians Wall, one of the richest examples of Roman history in the UK. Adventure travel can be done completely independently but I prefer to do it in the safe and experienced hands of experts like Intrepid Travel, G Adventure to name but a few. These guys specialise in small group adventure travel, they will take care of you from the start meeting point to farewell departure point, all you need do is get yourself there all of which I can arrange for you. Why do it? I thrive on these new experiences. I love to learn about new cultures, or just new things about cultures already known. I love the challenges that it presents, it takes me out of my comfort zone, tests my ability to cope with what the journey throws at me (skills I can apply to life). We’re all very different and so Adventure travel may not speak to your soul but to me the challenges of travelling solo, meeting new people, learning a new activity, enduring the elements, and testing my physical ability is so exhilarating for me. Navigating these challenges gives me a sense of satisfaction, of something achieved, something I can look back on and feel like I have come away with new skills, new experiences, new understanding, new knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fly’n flop beach holiday but they serve a different purpose. What’s on my Adventure Travel List? Antarctica (fingers crossed this is happening in November 2021 with Intrepid Travel) India, North & South Turtle Hatching Sailing Croatia coast La Tomatina Festival – reminds me of a food fight I experienced in my 20’s (so much fun) Lisbon Food tour Galapagos Islands Greek Island Hopping What about you? Do you fancy some Adventure Travel? Where would you go? What would you want to experience? If you’d like some help with shaping your adventure thoughts, or know someone who would, then contact me on the link above and let’s get talking. If it leads to nowhere then that’s the journey, at the very least we will be enriched by having met each other. Adventure is all around us if we open our eyes and minds to experiencing it.
22 January 2021
The Recipe to Successful Travel - Is there a recipe? The Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry has enriched and influenced most of my working life and throughout this, planning lay at the heart of successful travel. Successful planning is key to everything and knowing why you want to take the journey and what you want to achieve is the first stage of planning. Successful planning and advice lays at the heart of my unique business which specialises in advising and organising your travel agenda. Later in 2021 I will be embarking on an Antarctic Cruise with Intrepid Travel, a trip won last year through an industry competition and now I need to embrace this unique life changing opportunity and create my successful travel plan. Why do I want to do this trip? This unique life changing opportunity is a cocktail of adventures to be explored, embraced, valued and an experience that will maximise knowledge of the Antarctic and adventure cruising. This adventure with an off the beaten track agenda excites my inner passion for travel. The journeying will take me through a myriad of experiences: meeting new cultures, people, challenges, developing a new inner strength to become physically and emotionally fit. It is a life changing turning point, a milestone from which new educational experiences can grow. It is an opportunity to be shared with all who have a love for travel and who value that planning is central to every unique holiday experience. The trip will help me to advise and help you get the best from your unique Antarctic Adventure – should you choose to go. What are your reasons for travelling? Visiting friends & relatives, fly & flop, archaeological & cultural focus, language development, practice a hobby …. Different choices require different arrangements: flight & car hire, All Inclusive beach package, City Break, Homestay, sailing/cycling tour. There’s little point me suggesting you an All-Inclusive beach package if you want to learn about Greek Mythology. So, to the person organising your travel (that’s me), working hard to understand your travel needs is my speciality. I aim to ensure you feel understood, then I create the right itinerary for you. What do I want to achieve? Learning about the Antarctic’s natural environment, history of explorers, to experience some Argentine culture and then share the unique experience and photos with my friends & clients. I want to experience some optional activities which require a good degree of fitness, skill and tolerance a of cold. What does this mean for me? I need to plan. Things need effectively planning prior to departure, some things now, some later in the year will prepare me and maximise the benefits which I can gain from the experience. What would you want to achieve on your travels? Relaxation, learn or practice an activity, meet new friends, experience a new culture, have some time to yourself, learn a language, attend a conference, personal development goals, the list is endless, and I can help you to plan your unique future travel adventures with my unique travel planning skills. Who can help you to make your travel recipe successful? Whether you’re embarking on an epic once in a lifetime journey or taking an annual relaxing 2 week fly & flop, once you know why you want to do it and what you want to achieve, you have got the building blocks to your Successful Travel experience. What next? That’s where I can help; my honed travel planning skills can help you to successfully plan your adventure, perfect planning with a person who is passionate about maximising the client’s experiences to be gained from their travels. If you’d like help with the recipe to your Successful Travel, then please do get in touch and let me help you plan to realise your dreams with the minimum of stress… Wherever there’s a travel blog, there’s always more to follow. Interest? Please follow my adventures as they unfold on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sallyjoasser
16 December 2020
I’ve always been quite an easy going kinda girl. Good job! Little did any of us know what 2020 had in store for us! For all of us it has been immensely challenging bringing income insecurity, stunted social lives, home teaching whilst (for some) home working (for me this was tough), exhaustion of adapting every aspect of our everyday living….. second thinking everything, can we go to the park? Can I invite my friends in the house? Is 6 people ok or is it just 1? Is the local shop open? Can I visit the pub, who with……. It’s all been so exhausting…. let alone to mention the illness and desperately sad early departure of some of our friends and families. From my business perspective it’s been quite a challenge to keep up with all the changes, cancellations, refunds and re-bookings. I have been very grateful for the patience, understanding and kindness my clients have shown me as I fought to resolve their travel plans. Their attitude left me feeling a great faith in humanity. Great news…business is now picking up. All of my enquiries at the moment are for bucket list, once in a lifetime holidays….. What I’m hearing is ”we’ve not spent our holiday budget this year, so lets bundle it together with next years and do that trip we always wanted to”. Although I have not pinned down exact dates for these departures yet, we are well on the way of planning them, to be taken as and when restrictions are lessened. I’m not a hugely techie person (nor a Technophobe) but I’ve embraced the way of the Zoom and now much prefer a Zoom meeting than a conventional phone call for business and social. On a personal front I’ve tried to embrace all that has been within my control and worked to create it into positive experiences. I upgraded my 28year old bicycle and got back out on my wheels. I’ve always enjoyed being on the water and living by the sea it seems a sin not to do it, so I invested in a paddleboard and have spent many hours on the sea and up river in my local area. I hit the big 50 and was able to have a few mini celebrations within the national restrictions at the time. I even revisited my childhood (must have been feeling nostalgic turning 50!) and found a guilty pleasure…. Jigsaw puzzles!!! Next year is looking very exciting for my travels…... Firstly, in February I have a weekend lounging in a hot tub at a Lodge in The New Forest with girlfriends. March will be taking me on a short break to Venice with a girlfriend, this trip was postponed from last March, so fingers crossed. In the summer holidays I will be taking my children for two weeks in the beautiful Bulgarian countryside, enjoying the natural thermal spa’s, delicious food and great company of friends, my kids love this holiday. In the autumn I have a Yoga Retreat weekend in Rye, good to recharge my soul. Finally, in November I have the most fantastically exciting adventure booked... this trip will be my first holiday as a solo traveller so I feel a mixture of a little anxiety but mostly great excitement for experiencing all the adventure will hold for me, I will share more about this trip during the year. All of these types of holidays and more can be booked with me, so if you need a little help planning your travel calendar then please get in touch to discuss your plans, I can’t wait to start helping you. So, farewell 2020, I shan’t miss most of what you brought us, and welcome 2021 with hopefully some better offerings for the year. The photo's are a little selection of my 2020 highlights. Take care all and Happy New Year xxxx
13 January 2020
Christmas Skiing, La Plagne - France Our party comprised me, my sons 15 & 9, my cousin, his wife and 2 daughters 4 & 6 and two grandmas, a multi-generational party. Four skiers, one snowboarder, two novice young children and two non-skiers (grandmas). La Plagne Centre & Ski Circuit is about 2hrs30mins from Grenoble airport. It’s multiple villages at different altitudes are part of the Paradiski Ski Circuit. We only booked the La Plagne lift pass which was more than sufficient for our needs. There are plenty of wide cruising blue runs great for intermediates as well as a good selection of green, reds and blacks. There’s a complimentary inter village shuttle bus during day and into the evening, taxis are also available. La Plagne Centre has plenty of piste-side watering holes, I can thoroughly recommend the Choco Baileys Chantilly at La Vega, a hot chocolate laced with Baileys and plenty of cream (one for the Mummy’s!) It was so wonderful to lay in a deck chair a warm Vin Chaud in hand, crystal clear blue skies, and a face full of sunshine. Prices for a vin chaud, iced tea and a Fanta was 15Euro. Dinner at La Vega restaurant and for my family of 4 for a main and one drink each was 85Euro, great food, great service and a traditional Savoyard style cosy restaurant. Chalet Boulevard is a very cute three bedroom chalet, 2 bathrooms, 2 separate toilets, right on the edge of a blue run. The location was perfect for the skiers and turned out to be a good option for the grandma’s too as they had entertainment of watching the skiers all day from the warmth of our cosy chalet. Our hosts Tommy & Lorna gave us a very warm welcome. During our stay they proved to be wonderful people and a great credit to themselves and the company. A perfect social/professional balance of integrating into our family group, joining us socially for, engaging with the children and occasionally disappearing into the background at the appropriate time. They both catered for our every need. Our meals included breakfast, afternoon tea, and a 3 course dinner with unlimited wine. Typically breakfast was cereals, baguette, jams, Nutella, fresh porridge and eggs. Afternoon tea was a fresh cake each day, baguette, jams, Nutella. We fed the children dinner earlier which worked well and then allowed the adults to enjoy a leisurely dinner. Tommy cooked good hearty meals, Tartiflette, chicken and mushroom Stroganoff, lasagne, and of course a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas Day…. my belly was groaning after day 1! Ski Equipment Top Tips - Pre-book your equipment to help speed up the process - Collect your equipment as soon as possible after arrival, the process can be quite time consuming, tricky when you have young children at the end of a very long day. - If travelling with young children, remember you need to carry ALL of the equipment yours and theirs back to your chalet. Anything/one you can enlist to assist with this is beneficial, we took a couple of sledges down with us to load up with all the boots and helmets, leaving hands free to carry the multitude of ski’s and poles as well as hands of tired little people. - Take a good dose of humour with you - I was close to sense of humour failure, and my children were old enough to help! Ski School Top Tips I was on a chair lift one day, next to a young 7/8year old who’s instructor had put him on the chairlift on his own. He was crying his eyes out because he was so cold. We chatted and managed to get a little smile out of him. So first top tip…… - Book private ski school, it cost us £100 more for 2 beginners than group lessons but well worth it. Although this meant 1 hour less than a group lesson it was a solid 2 hours of instruction, no wasted time, no standing around waiting your turn, getting cold. It also allowed the flexibility to adapt with their development more appropriately. They also benefit from having an afternoon lesson, thus avoiding the stress of trying to get everyone kitted up first thing in the morning. - A Grandparent is very handy to babysit the little people so you can still pop out with your skiing pals. Non-Ski Activities - The location of our chalet, right on the edge of a blue run meant that we had the most enormous sledge run once the piste had closed to skiers. You’ll have to head to my Facebook page Sally-Jo Asser – Travel Counsellors to see the video footage. It was so exhilarating to be bombing down the slopes on sledge and bumboard racing with my sons, a really fun, post dinner activity. - When the pistes were closed we went out to do MotoNeige, a convoy of 8 skidoos. It was dark, crystal clear skies, stars as far as the eyes could see, a soft backdrop of the mountains enveloping us and the twinkling lights of the villages below. We bombed up piste, down piste, across piste, off piste, another exhilarating experience to add to my portfolio. - There are also plenty of other non-ski activities, spa leisure centres, Bobsleigh, Toboggan Luge, childrens creche, dog-sledding, certainly more than enough to occupy a family for a week. So in summary if there’s one thing to put on your bucket list for this year then add a family Christmas in the snow. Lots of fresh air, good food, great company...an amazing magical experience full of good wholesome family fun.
01 July 2019
So another year has gone by and it’s time for the next girls holiday. Mid June, 5 ladies, 4 nights at The Roda Beach Resort & Spa, Corfu, all-inclusive. We flew with Easyjet from Gatwick on the early 6am flight, arriving to be met by our private taxi so we could avoid the time consuming hotel drop off’s (very important when you’re on a short break). A swift 50 minute taxi journey and we were at our hotel in time for lunch. The hotel is situated on the beautifully mountainous north coast of the island, with views across the Ionian Sea to Albania. An attractive hotel, spacious lobby, pretty manicured gardens, cobbled pathways, selection of bars, restaurants, ice cream parlour, creperie/dessert bar (I liked this area!), good quality food – all boxes ticked for us. The main pool was large with different areas for little kids, water slide, nice design with a walkway over the top. We had swim up family suites, which suited us as we enjoyed the relaxation of our quieter area, with it’s own bar and amazing Dionysia who took to serving us poolside – I’m not sure that was her job spec but very nice customer service it was. She took the effort to remember our names and was pleasantly sociable. At night the hotel pools were under lit with an exotic blue haze, it really did look very pretty. The walk along the beach, east is 15/20 mins to the main part of Roda (quite small and quiet) where you come across a few beach taverna, which have sun loungers for rent (5Euro per day), boat trips, kayaks for hire etc. One morning we went for a cuppa to Laluz Taverna, a very pleasant start to the day, also a good option if you want a change of scene to eat out (breakfast/snacks 4-8Euro, mains 6-19Euro). In the other direction along the beach for 10mins is a cliff, it’s easy to wade out in the water around the peninsular, just heads to more little beaches, just good fun for a paddle, kids would love it. The main aim of this holiday was to fly and flop, read, chat, laugh, eat, drink, sunbathe - but I get itchy feet, I need to see what’s beyond the hotel gates! I hired a little car for the day (35 Euros) and embarked on a full day trip. First stop 30 minutes drive to the east the charming harbour town of Kassiopi, unique among Corfu resorts in having both a very picturesque setting and a fair amount of history. It is an attractive resort with traditional narrow streets and overlooked by the ruins of an ancient castle. The magnificent backdrop of Mount Pantokrator and hills covered with olive groves, vines and citrus plantations make a very pleasing vista. We stopped for a walk and a drink in a harbour front café (fresh OJ & sparkling water 6Euro). Driving on to visit The White House in Kalami, home of the famed Durrell’s, now a restaurant. A very picturesque setting to dine in but you pay for the view and history (mains were 15Euro+). It would make for a lovely venue for a treat. We didn’t have time to eat as I’d scheduled a meeting (yes, a bit of work whilst on hols) with the Sales Director at the IKOS Dassia to learn about the hotel. IKOS Dassia is a stunningly beautiful property, earning every bit of it’s 5* rating. From the long sandy beachfront, the level of service and inclusions, the variety of dining options, quality of food, and if you like your wine, each restaurant has it’s own chiller room on view for storage – I was in heaven! Staying here is Ultra All Inclusive and even includes car hire. If you want to dine out, the hotel has arrangements with a selection of local restaurants to get that local dining experience. I’m sold on the hotel, so am plotting when I can book! We visited Paleokastritsa, the Monastery (donation) and did a 40ish mins boat trip to the caves (10Euro), both interesting/fun things to do. Along the drive back to Roda we took the back roads, a maze of tiny single track lanes, through pretty little villages, with rustic churches and homes, village squares where the locals were just sitting out. A few wrong turns, a few educated guesses and we found ourselves closer to home than we thought. I’m so pleased to have been out to explore, it’s dead easy to drive, had a great mini adventure and a few more of my travel boxes are now ticked. I really recommend a stay on the north coast of Corfu either at Roda Beach Resort & Spa, or Kassiopi harbour town. If you really feel like splashing out, the IKOS Dassia is the one for you. I certainly aim to return to Corfu again – I want to do a boat trip to Paxos & Anti Paxos – the more I travel, the more I add to my list! Get in touch if you’d like to chat through some Corfu holiday ideas. Look forward to advising you.
01 April 2019
If you don’t have much time to spare in your busy stressful life what better way to spend it than relaxing at one of the many bubbling hot tub retreats nestled deep in the UK’s lush green countryside or picturesque coast. From quirky beach huts with stunning sea views to a cosy converted red bus. Escape to a beautiful cottage, stunning barn, or hop aboard a stylish boat. Whatever your idea of holiday heaven is, our choice is unrivalled. I recently stayed in a Becton Lodge with hot tub at Hoburne Naish on the Hampshire coast, just on the outskirts of The New Forest. The Lodge was perfect, very comfortable, spacious, a great open plan social space of kitchen, dining and lounge area, loads of storage space and washing machine for those longer stays. The coastal walks just a few metres away, good onsite facilities. The best bit (actually the reason I booked!) a sizeable hot tub, bath water hot, on our own gated verandah. Who knew one could spend so long in a hot tub! What a great short break! Revives the soul. I can arrange this and other short breaks in the UK. I work with Hoseasons and we have just become the first agency in the UK to sell Sykes Holiday Cottages. Please get in touch to book your weekend break.
11 March 2019
MSC Bellisima for One Night Only I was fortunate enough to experience an overnight onboard MSC Bellisima whilst in Southampton in March 2019. I’ll be honest, although I do have a passion for being on the water and have enjoyed being onboard a dive liveaboard, chartering yachts and catamarans, a bit of dinghy and hobie cat sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing, MSC Bellisima was my first cruise experience on such a large vessel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can assure you she did not disappoint me, I will certainly be recommending her to my clients. There’s a great selection of cabins types from comfortable inside or balcony cabins to duplex and royal suites. Each cabin is equipped with ZOE, the very first virtual personal cruise assistant. With a simple “Ok ZOE” (in 1 of 7 languages) she can reply to hundreds of questions regarding your cruise experience from daily programme to Club member benefits or information for the kids. With her you can explore onboard activities, choose and book restaurants, your shows, your excursions or your spa session. She also gives you a hand to check your bill and learns from every interaction you have with her so she can offer an even more personalised service. The vessel is fully equipped with innovative technology to enhance and personalise your experience onboard from the app to the interactive screens on board, helping you to find your way around as well as being able to locate your travel companions. I tried a few of the eateries, all of them were outstanding. Marketplace Buffet with spectacular sea views is open 20 hours a day. The food is as varied as it is delicious. You can choose from a wide variety of offerings depending on the mealtime. Breakfast offered full English, Continental, omelette to order, pancakes and waffles, porridge and cereals and more. Lunchtime, fresh fruit and salad, Pizza, Pasta, Ethnic dishes, Grills, Roasts, Desserts, even has a dedicated children’s food bar and much more. Even in the early hours of the morning a much-needed pizza bar is fully operational. Dinner in the very elegant Il Ciliegio restaurant…. Marinated Alaskan King Crab, Shrimp Risotto, Angus Beef Tenderloin and Coconut & Raspberry Posset, delicious. I was able to sample a few treats from the speciality restaurants; a particular favourite was Kaito Teppanyaki with the chef performing his cooking skills – I love food theatre. I also really enjoyed the ice cream and crepes parlour on Galleria. At the heart of all the ship is Galleria Bellisima, an incredible two deck inside 96meter promenade featuring a spectacular 80meter long LED dome ceiling, lined with places to shop, eat and drink and filled with onboard activities of all kinds, at any time of day or night. Watching its displays whilst out for a stroll was an evening’s entertainment! MSC Bellisima offers endless fun for the whole family, from the high-tech London Theatre seating 975, 2 exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows to the interactive multi-storey Grand Canyon themed aquapark, aerial assault course and multiple swimming pools. The Amusement area was one of my favourites with 2 full size Formula 1 car simulators, bowling alleys, VR Maze, XD Cinema, Sports Bar, basketball court which doubles as a nightclub. There are dedicated clubs and activities from babies up to 17years, allowing parents a little R&R from their kiddies/teens. All age groups have its own programme of activities, events and dedicated areas. The Aurea Spa is a peaceful haven to relax and chill out. It offers a wide selection of beauty treatments and therapies to help you find your cruising mojo. I was keen to visit MSC Yacht Club, to find out what could possibly be more luxurious than the main ship. Located on the prestigious foredecks the MSC Yacht Club is an even more luxurious cruise within a cruise. It is an exclusive luxury private club experience with its own cabins, personal butler, restaurant, bar, pool and sun deck, while also allowing you to enjoy access to the countless recreation and entertainment options the rest of the ship affords. A great option for those celebrating a special occasion or those wishing for a little quieter experience whilst still having so many ship facilities at hand. MSC Bellisima far exceeded my expectations and I would thoroughly recommend her to solos, couples, families and multi-generational. You’re sure to have as fun packed and relaxed holiday as you wish for. If you are interested to know more, please feel free to contact me. She’s departed Southampton now and will be sailing around the Med until the autumn 2019 before moving on to sail the shores of the UAE for the winter. Into Spring 2020 she will continue her voyage through the Indian Ocean and onto the Far East. There are lots of different itinerary duration from 4 to 17nights, something to suit everyone. Happy Cruising
04 December 2018
Bear with me whilst I break from guidelines of 750 words max for a blog…. I’ve got too much to tell you! Some 20 years ago husband and I, along with two of his colleagues that I barely knew at the time, booked a last-minute holiday to Playa del Carmen. I’m happy to say we had an amazing holiday, although it was not as cheap as my husband had led our friends to believe (now a standing joke)! This couple have been our dearest friends ever since. I was overjoyed when they suggested a return trip. We booked the holiday for the end of May for 14 nights and we are now two families comprising four adults and four boys aged 7-12 years old. We stayed at The Occidental Grand Xcaret, on the Riviera Maya. On arrival, mid evening, our transfer arrived into a sweeping, discreetly lit driveway, up to the reception foyer. The sheer grandeur and tropical surroundings felt like stepping into Jurassic Park. After checking in, we were guided through the grounds to our room. Immediately we began to experience the surprises this hotel had to offer. Within yards we had encountered Macaws, monkeys, and these funny little miniature Capybara creatures, we never did learn what they truly were – this was just the start of many animal encounters. First morning, due to jet lag our 7year old was up at 4am, so we walked to look at our closest pool. The temptation was too great, a paddle wasn’t enough, so we took a little dip. With hindsight, I’m not so sure I’d do that again as the very next day, in broad daylight, and a pleasantly active pool a large Iguana decided to take a swim to the other side, quite an extraordinary experience! Our closest pool was freeform, surrounded by lush tree’s and a poolside bar. There were four jacuzzi pools sunken into the pool too – heaven! This place just keeps on giving. Mid-afternoon a troop of monkeys arrive across the rooftops of the surrounding accommodations to play and feast in the trees over hanging the pool, a regular occurrence. We were careful not to stand directly under them, once they’ve eaten the fruit, they discard the husk downwards! The next day we decide to explore the grounds before breakfast (still jetlagged). We found the adult only saltwater pool, this is a living pool with a channel out to sea, so the pool is filled with every lapping wave. As we stroll the perimeter, ankle deep, our ‘eagle eyed’ eldest son discovered an octopus about the size of a dinner plate, just resting there. It kindly allowed us time to take some photos before it ‘inked’ us and thrusted away. And then came the Coati’s. These cute long-tailed animals wander the hotel grounds freely. We bumped into them a few times as we wandered to breakfast. They’re curious but quite shy. By this point my children are teetering on the edge of wildlife sensory overload! However, the magnificent animal kingdom did not stop there - iguanas, lizards, geckos, deer, snakes, tropical fish, birds of paradise, hummingbirds, all before we even got into Xcaret Park where the wonders continued. With our holiday purchase we decided to pay extra to have unlimited access to Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park which is situated right next door. We had visited this park BC (before children!) as a day trip. The park celebrates the cultural, archaeological, and ecological history of Mexico. It has its own private entrance close to the beach restaurant, great for doing a morning visit, and you can walk or catch a boat from inside the main hotel foyer, all great experiences. For me, by far the best experience at Xcaret are the underground rivers. There are three to choose from, varying in length, so once you’ve got your life vest on and chosen your path, you climb down into the river, it’s a bit chilly but if I can do it so can you. We floated and paddled a little down river through the caves lit by natural light from air vents above. I can’t explain how wonderful this experience is. One evening we decided to go to the Xcaret Theatre. The building was awesome, a combination of small stadium size and theatre with stunning Mexican design. It even has waterfalls cascading around the exterior which you could see from inside as it is open sided. The show’s a spectacular performance telling the story of the Mexican culture, traditions and regions of the country. A fascinating show of epic proportions, take a snack and water as it’s quite a long show but you can leave at any time. Food in the park was varied but quite pricey but as we had unlimited access, we could pop back to the hotel to eat or usually we organised our visits as half days around meal times. On a couple of occasions, to have a change of scene, we caught a taxi into Playa del Carmen, only about £5. It dropped us at a taxi rank, so it was really easy to get a taxi back at the end of the day. Playa del Carmen had grown a lot since our first visit. There are many shops selling Mexican trinkets and souvenirs along the pedestrianised central parade (great for the kids), and so much choice for seafront eateries on the great expanse of beach. We also found Paseo del Carmen, an open-air mall where you walk along cobblestones paths to the different shops like Gant, Vilebrequin, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara and the likes of, some eateries and coffee houses too. This was a very enjoyable afternoon out. The Occidental Grand Xcaret, in my opinion, is undoubtedly one of the top all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya and makes the perfect getaway for those seeking tranquillity and adventure. Facilities and service here are second to none with a choice of 11 restaurants and 10 bars allowing you to choose to snack, take an informal gourmet lunch or a candle-lit dinner whatever takes your fancy. There are seven swimming pools (some exclusive) and an excellent kid’s club, there’s something here to suit all kinds of traveller. We booked this holiday thinking we knew what we were in for. The Occidental Grand Xcaret and Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park excelled on every level and surpassed all my expectations. A fantastic holiday and experience for us all.
23 November 2018
One of the highlights of my year is the few nights that I take away with my girly friends. No families, no work, no routine. Just swim, chat, laugh, read, eat and drink. Friend therapy is my best tonic to add balance to my manic work and family life. Over the last six years, four of my dear friends and I have been so fortunate to have the support of our families to have this relaxing break experience. We’ve been on a spa weekend at Sandbanks, a shopping trip to London, and mini breaks to Majorca, Kos, Corfu and Portugal. It can sometimes be tricky choosing a destination. Seemingly so many boxes to tick, short travel duration, cost, weather, hotel facilities, preferred meal plan to name but a few. With a little give and take, a bit of chat and a glass or two of wine, we usually come to a happy agreement and book it there and then! Thankfully we all agree the main agenda for a girly holiday is to spend time relaxing with great travel companions. In my opinion a successful girl’s holiday needs, sunshine, a good pool, beaches, a selection of places to eat and drink, and maybe an excursion or two (my friends will moan at me for that one!) A Guide to the Perfect Girls holiday We’re pampered, manicured, pedicured, coiffed, the bags are packed, children are handed over, it’s time to go. We treat ourselves to valet parking, before heading to an airport restaurant or lounge for a welcomed glass of champagne (or whatever the favourite tipple is). Let the holiday begin. On arrival, we rendezvous with our pre-booked private transfer to be whisked away without delay to our chosen hotel. Sun cream at the ready, swimming pool here we come! A complete relaxation with a good book, and a glass of something never too far away. The flow of the next few days usually turns out to be quite organic. We agree a leisurely breakfast time to meet, and then head to pool or beach to sunbathe, read, swim and sometimes a competition of Lilo Olympics. On occasions it has been known for me to participate in a little light aqua-aerobics, but I have learnt to only do this if accompanied by one of my friends for fear of being paired again with a hairy man of a much older generation! During these carefree days we typically enjoy lots of swimming, laughing, reading, chatting and putting the world to right. If I’m lucky I can sometimes pull someone away to do an excursion boat trip, or even just a walk to explore the area. As late as possible in the day we head to our rooms allowing time to change for the evening. Typically, dinner is our entertainment we all agree on this. Sometimes hotel entertainment is ok, or we’ll head to the local nightlife. The day to return home, not unexpectedly, is a sad day. But during the coming days, weeks, months I know I can draw upon my memories of a fantastic relaxing break with my great friends. My favourite destination to date, for our girly holidays must be Corfu, which we have visited twice. We enjoy it so much we have booked again for June 2019. Corfu is one of the greenest islands partly due to the rainfall they receive September through to June but mostly due to the slender Cypress trees, thousands of olive trees that carpet the land and an abundance of fresh produce grown on the island, including tomatoes, kumquats, herbs and lemons. It benefits from being one of the sleepier of the Greek islands as long as you stay away from the more touristy towns. The coastline is quite stunning, long sweeping bays, small secluded coves accessible by narrow tracks or by boat, quaint little fishing villages and harbours. I thoroughly recommend a girly holiday, whether it’s a shopping trip, beach or city break, long or short haul it’s all great fun. Contact me if I can help you organise your Friend Therapy trip.
28 September 2021
I visited Dubai back in Jan/Feb of 2017 for 5nights. Staying with friends family I was fortunate that I would get to experience Dubai from an ex-pat perspective, I always love a homestay experience (love an hotel stay too!). Their home in Arabian Ranches on the outskirts of Dubai is a good location if you wanted to rent a villa and car hire, otherwise it would be better to be more central. We had a fantastic fun packed few days. I’m not one for heights but top of my bucket list was the Burj Khalifa, currently the World’s tallest building towering 160 floors. We had tickets for the Observation decks on L124/125, you can also buy another package which takes you to Sky at The Top on 148. The views are breath taking, no time to think about not enjoying heights!!! I quite enjoyed all the displays along the journey through the building, explaining the history, innovation and development of the construction, very interesting. Around the base of Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Fountain Lake, a captivating water, music and light spectacle in Downtown Dubai. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s tallest performing fountain at over 900 ft in length – equivalent to over two football pitches. The fountain performs to a range of different songs from classical to contemporary Arabic and world music. Quite a spectacle to see. You can pay for a boat ride on the lake or just stroll the boardwalk, which is what we did before dining in one of the many waterside restaurants. If you’re interested in Dubai/UAE history I would recommend two museums. The Dubai Musuem & Al Fahidi Fort depicts everyday Dubai life in the days before the discovery of oil. Galleries recreate scenes from the Creek, traditional Arab houses, mosques, the souk, date farms and desert and marine life. For more recent history of how the UAE came to be then I’d recommend visiting Etihad Museum, I came away feeling like I understood Dubai more. One afternoon we took a hair raising drive, in a sand storm (that was an interesting experience!), into the desert to Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Resort for dinner…. Wow! What an amazing hotel…. A beautiful Arabian styled hotel set in the middle of the desert. Dinner was delicious, followed by relaxing with tea in the lobby. This would be a great place to combine and contrast with a Dubai city break, a completely different experience. Afternoon Tea at Plato’s in Atlantis The Palm was a wonderful experience. The selection of savouries and sweet treats look beautiful with a taste to match. I was in awe of the stunning Murano Glass chandelier, the focal point of the main lobby… worth a visit just to see that! The aquarium here is worth visiting, you can even go scuba diving in it! This hotel has so much to offer as well as the Aquaventure water park, the worlds largest right on the doorstep. A trip to Dubai would not be complete without visiting the Malls and shopping. I visited The Dubai Mall, with its world class aquarium, all the shops and eateries you could ever want, The Souk and an Olympic sized ice rink too, great if you want to cool down!. The Mall of the Emirates has good shopping and is worth a visit if you fancy a few hours skiing too. Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a lovely Arabian market, like stepping back into Disney’s Aladdin. Stroll through the alleys filled with oriental scents and discover richly coloured fabrics, traditional handicrafts and unique souvenirs. During my stay we ate at many different places, mostly international cuisine and was kindly hosted a lot of the time. Next time I visit I would like to take a tour of the old Dubai and eat in a few ‘off the beaten track’ places, this is something I can arrange if it would interest you. I really enjoyed Dubai and would happily return. I came away feeling initially that everything is a façade, a little bit ‘Disney’, but over time as I’ve reflected on that trip I now feel like there is so much more to explore beyond the obvious glitz and glam of the shiny skyscrapers, premium brand shopping malls and innovation of building and technology. A great destination to suit all kinds of folk. If you’d like to chat about your plans to visit Dubai then please get in touch via the link on my homepage.
St Mary's 03/02/2019